BUILDER Insider: How Will Housing Draw in a New Wave of Talent and Leaders?
It’s just a hunch, but our guess is that there are a lot of kids out there who fell asleep and dreamed last night of growing up to work in a place like Tesla, whose founder and chief promoter promises us joyrides to Mars before the next decade’s out.
And just as many young, smart, ambitious boys and girls awaken this morning determined to work and study and train however much it takes to qualify for jobs at Tesla, Alphabet, Amazon’s Blue Origin, Planetary Resources, or Moon Express. What kid wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to work on a new-generation B.F.R. rocket, where the B stands for big and the R stands for rocket)?
And when it comes down to it, if we had our way, wouldn’t we all want to be working on a B.F.R.?
Admit it, Elon Musk’s shameless audacity is one of the most infectiously mesmerizing and inspiring forces of nature in business and culture these days. And, further, it’s exactly that unchecked chutzpah we need in the world and landscape of home building if we’re ever going to begin to tip the tide of talent toward a brilliant next generation of designers, engineers, managers, craftspeople, and technicians of all stripes.
We’ve asked the question before–and it bears repeating here–whether residential construction’s capacity constraint is more about a quantity of missing skilled and semi-skilled laborers, or rather, about the quality of human talent and ingenuity necessary to overcome the barrier of “missing headcount.”
We need people like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and Larry Page and Tim Cook and, who knows, maybe Michael Marks, to remind us about barriers.
Barriers were what today’s brilliant solutions solved for to become common practice in home building. Still, structure, system, and assembly solutions commonly practiced today may, in fact, be barriers–solid, expensive, and formidable–to tomorrow’s solutions.
A confidently asserted goal–a B.F.R. that will take us to Mars (and back?)–puts barriers in perspective. They’re only barriers, and as such, are a key ingrediant to tomorrow’s solutions.
Housing’s big barriers are two-fold. One, is that we–the nation–are underhoused. Two, is that we need more and better matches between talent, skill, and productivity on the one hand, and our organizations and projects on the other.
If you listen here to LP Building Products’ chief executive officer Brad Southern, you will hear a leader whose focus is on solving for those two barriers, more housing for more Americans, and more talent in the housing equation.
On labor capacity:
“There’s no doubt that [labor capacity] is constraining recovery of single-family construction. The way we can help that situation is by making sure [our critical builder customers] understand that the products we have today can ease installation, and definitely from a quality standpoint, reduce the number of call-backs that you get post-installation, and can provide a way to get more efficient labor utilization at the build, and even after the build.”
On business in 2018: “We think 2018’s going to be a good year for demand growth as housing continues to recover. We like the fact that it’s recovering modestly but steadily. So, we’re looking forward to demand growth in single-family from a percentage standpoint like we saw in 2017. There’ll be incremental volume across all our businesses. Repair and remodeling is strong currently, and we see that growing in 2018 and beyond.”
On where innovation investment and commitment fits into the LP strategy:
“It’s a cycle of understanding how to be innovative from a product creation and manufacturing standpoint. We are really good at bringing those products to market. And we have a network of distribution now, that because of the strength of our SmartSide offering, our flooring offering, to take new products to market and get acceptance.”
“We listen to builders and contractors about what their product needs are. And we have a very flexible manufacturing platform, where we take strands of wood, glue them and press them back together. We can do that in a lot of different configurations. To a certain extent, we can respond to needs for customization. So, we’re really attuned to ‘what are the wood composite needs’ for home builders to meet the design criteria they want in their homes.”
How innovation investment maps to a stronger culture and makes LP a place people want to work:
“I’m really optimistic about the strength of our industry across all areas; first of all providing a fundamental need in the United States–North America–with housing. And [secondly], doing it in a way that’s exciting, sustainable, and innovative. Our industry’s capable of doing that, and we see it everywhere that we go now. That’s what’s exciting now about working in the industry. I think that will appeal to folks. Also, I think it’s an opportunity to create value by integrating technological solutions into home building, and the final home product in a way that makes housing exciting for the next generation.”
Organizations like LP, at the nexus of advanced applied science and nature, making the making of homes and communities an exciting prospect, are the equivalent today of Elon Musk’s B.F.R.